Start date: March 1st, 2006 (LOL oh man)
Date of completion: June 14th, 2008
Dedicated to all other Itachi fans. And of course to Itachi-san himself.
END – "or set me free"
The rain, rather than clearing up after the storm, only intensified.
They splattered softly onto her pale cheeks, her dark, resting lashes, her bloodless lips still tilted upwards ever so softly at the corners.
The trickles of water ran down her pastel-green hair which would've been shoulder-length if she was standing or sitting up, but she was lying down, motionless, and had been ever since. The rain which poured down her hair, her soaked clothing and her soft curves, pooled around her and made it seem that there was more blood than was actually there.
Sakura looked up at her Jounin sensei, Kakashi, who was the first one to break the silence.
The pink-haired kunoichi looked down again.
"…The wound she received wasn't a fatal one, but…" the medic-nin found the words heavy on the tip of her tongue "…it seems that she had lost a lot of blood prior to this, so…"
Sakura trailed off.
A moment of shared silence.
"Ah! Sakura-chan!" Naruto's naturally loud voice perked up. "What about Sasuke!? Did you see what-"
He was interrupted by Kakashi's hand on his shoulder.
"I…couldn't stop them…" Sakura finally replied. "I couldn't stop him from taking Sasuke…and…"
The medic-nin averted her eyes from her teammates. Her green eyes landed numbly on the closed eyelids of the woman on the ground.
"I'm not sure what happened, exactly…but Uchiha Itachi is dead. Sasuke-…Sasuke killed him."
A ripple of shock went through the surrounding Leaf shinobi.
"I'm sorry…" Sakura said. "Can you…leave me alone for a while?"
Kakashi and Yamato exchanged a glance.
"Fine," her sensei turned to say. "We'll all go look around. Let's go guys."
They split up, to search for remaining clues, leaving the pink-haired kunoichi by herself as she had requested.
Sakura knelt down and reached over to the gash in the center of that woman's torso which she had closed with her medic jutsu.
It was like…the woman had combined the Yamanaka clan's mind-body switching technique with a replacement technique. The wound which should have been left on the Uchiha's body from Orochimaru's attack had appeared on her instead. Like she had temporarily transferred her own cells, blood and soul to substitute for the raven-haired missing-nin…or something to that effect.
She had even been thrown back by the force of the attack, ending up where she lay now.
For her to be able to pull something like that off…who exactly…
"Hey…" Sakura said out loud. "If you're still out there, you can come out, now."
She bit the inside of her lip, still wary of that person.
His voice came from behind her, causing her to startle inwardly.
It must be a missing-nin habit to appear in other people's blind spots.
"…You have my gratitude…Sakura-san."
Sakura hurried to her feet, backing up in a way which she hoped was not too obvious, as he approached.
"I didn't do it for you," she replied with a strained smile. "I know that Sasuke won't stop chasing you unless you're dead. Until he kills you."
The kunoichi bit her lip again, hoping that she sounded more confident than she actually felt.
Come on, it's not everyday she gets to speak to an S-rank criminal so condescendingly. "So you better keep your word."
He didn't give a response. He didn't look at her.
The long-haired Uchiha, Itachi, had eyes for the woman who had saved him, only.
'He doesn't even have the courtesy to appear troubled,' Sakura thought dryly to herself. Is that what it is to be a high ranking missing-nin?
Given that he had chosen to remain at the green-haired kunoichi's side at the end…counts for something…right?
"Although I must admit…" Sakura added with an uncharacteristic bit of sarcasm "…it's not everyday I see an S-rank criminal get down on his knees and-"
He struck a pressure point on her back, and she blacked out before she even saw him move from his spot.
It had already been months since then.
Her image had burned into his mind.
It didn't take the support of his Sharingan to have done that.
Only did he think about it did he realize that he hadn't seen her true, artless smile for a long time. A very long time.
Maybe their separation had been for the best.
…So then why…
"Then, I'll leave this to you."
He watched her silently. This figure of a woman who slipped a sealed envelope to her servant. It bore the emblem of war.
She nodded covertly, waiting till her messenger had made his retreat before turning to slide the screen to her quarters open.
Only after she had slid the screen closed behind her did she sense the presence of the long-haired man in the room.
"Who's there?" she asked readily, gazing calmly into the dark.
The same pretty eyes. The same soft facial features.
But she was not the same girl.
Her eyes found him, perching in a relaxed manner, one leg dangling off the desk she used for paperwork.
One singular expression registered on her face.
'How did you even get in here?' it read.
He can get in anywhere. Her private quarters were no exception.
"…What do you want?" she poised a wary question.
He peered at her through his lashes.
She returned his scrutiny with a blank stare.
He had spoken that word softly, but he had no doubt that she had heard or had at least felt it.
A soft rap on the screen behind her interrupted.
"Loricha-sama, the letters you requested."
"Thank you. Leave it there."
She turned back, meeting his red eyes.
"Why are you here?" she tried again.
'After leaving me here, unconscious and unknowing what happened,' was her unspoken accusation.
Her crystalline pink eyes said it. 'I thought you were dead.'
"…I heard you have received a marriage proposal," Itachi said instead.
"A treaty," she replied indifferently. "…It's not easy for a single clan to resist war. There's been assassins lately." A small hesitation. "Speaking of which…you-…?"
He rose. Her pink eyes flickered to either side, but she stood her ground as he went to her.
It had been so long since he had been so close to her, even if he had to watch her from afar to prevent her from falling into Uchiha Madara's wiles. Part of the cunning man's plan to keep him preoccupied, of course.
Itachi laid one arm against the wall next to her head. She was right…she was right…
"I…to you…" he whispered to her softly "…what is my existence…?"
"…Don't even think about it," she told him, laying her hand on his wrist. But she did nothing else to prevent him as he trailed his fingers up from the hem of her top garment, lifting it up.
All her injuries had healed without trace, with the exception of that wound. He stared at it, the place not far below her breasts, running his hand over the scar.
It was the proof that she had been willing to lay down her life, no, not just her life – everything, for him. Even if she'd never admit it.
Itachi looked up and met her eyes. She was no longer the girl who flinched whenever he looked at her with the same silent intent. No longer the girl whom he could control so easily just by his touch.
It made him feel…at a loss. Something he had no desire to come to terms with
"Then…" He withdrew, letting his eyes close as he turned from her. "…I will make my leave."
No longer the same girl, but a fine woman. A proper, respected leader of her clan. He, banned from both halves of the shinobi world, unable to present his existence. No longer able to come and go about anywhere with ease. There was nothing he could offer her.
Her quiet voice had halted him quite easily.
"That's…all you came here to say?"
Itachi did not turn around.
The words he won't say.
The words she can't say.
They echoed in the distance between them.
"You're…not even going to ask if I accepted that proposal?"
"I see…I see… If you're not going to say anything…"
A bit…just a bit…her neutral tone had cracked just a bit.
She…still brings out the worst in him.
Her pink eyes blinked as he appeared before her, tilting his head and leaning in to place a kiss on her mouth, no more than a mere brush of his lips.
It probably affected him more than it did her.
"…That…" Itachi breathed out softly against her lips "…will that do?"
He pulled back slightly, to judge her reaction.
She was staring back at him, eyes reflecting her disbelief. He expected for her to draw away, to push him back, to frown or to shake her head incredulously.
"…Say it again," she told him blankly.
He held her unflinching gaze with his crimson eyes.
Itachi leaned in slowly, tracing the crevasse of her lips with his tongue before locking his mouth onto hers.
He kissed her deeply, slipping an arm around her shoulders, another around her waist, to support her weight as she yielded to him.
The way she melted against him was going to be his undoing.
He didn't like it. Didn't like such strange sensations. Didn't like feeling so weak when it came to her.
…But he didn't want to give her to anyone else. Not anyone.
She gave a soft intake of breath as he broke their kiss.
"…I came to take you away, Voreka-kun…" Itachi murmured lightly, sliding his hand under her shirt to rest against her warm skin. "Come with me."
She was resisting. A part of her may have already decided not to trust him again.
That caused him to pause, admittedly. He couldn't blame her. It would've been his own doing if she will never open up to him again.
But if there was one entirely selfish thing he wanted to do in this life…
Itachi slid his hand higher on her back, pressing her against him. He could feel her racing heartbeat.
"Tell me that again…" he said coolly next to her ear.
"My work here is not done," she explained finally.
He closed his eyes. A faint smile.
"I won't take 'no' as an answer," Itachi told her as a light warning.
She pursed her lips into a tight line. He could tell from that look in her eyes that she was calculating her possible escape routes.
Her arm moved. His red eyes thinned slightly in warning.
"You realize if I even raise my voice-"
"I will kill them all," Itachi interrupted stoically, dangerously.
"…It comes down to using threats, huh…"
He softened a little, reaching up to her hair. She had grown it out a bit.
"…What will you have me do…" Itachi finally asked, in his smooth, seductive voice. He felt breathless, saying this, admitting something like this.
"…If you want me to get down on my knees and beg…" he whispered to her "…I will do that, too…"
Judging by the long delay it took for the stunned look to show on her face, it didn't seem like she believed him.
He gazed steadily at her.
…Did she still not understand?
She was simply going to continue keeping herself in denial until he finally says it outright?
"…'Why', you ask?" He felt a small smirk form as he traced the bottom curve of her lips with his fingers.
"…Because I will take you with me…whatever it takes…" Itachi promised.
She closed her eyes, pulling free from his hold.
"There's just one thing I want to hear you say," she told him solemnly.
This sensation. This noticeable quickening of his pulse. He felt it despite himself.
"Anything," Itachi replied quietly, carefully.
"Correct me if I remember wrong, but did you happen to stab me with a, what, sword the last time we met?"
…He shut his eyes briefly, feeling a frown start to develop on his brow.
No, it appears that…she still had not changed very much at all.
It looks like he might have to use force, after all.
"You…" she took a fistful of his sleeve, mirroring his irritated expression "…you did, didn't you!?"
Edit: This needs major revision someday. I've made a lot of wrong predictions along the way and I have never looked back once on what I wrote. After my 5 month hiatus at chapter 18 I came back and couldn't even remember what I wrote in the first 18 chapters haha.
Here are some confessions:
I regret making Itachi that obvious in the early chapters - this was when some of us believed he's not truly evil but didn't think that it'd actually get revealed like that in the canon storyline.
There are no black widow spiders in wherever they were? - admittedly that was just for convenience; pretend it's a poisonous spider.
I thought Deidara would possess a feminine voice - I fell off my chair when I first heard him in Naruto Shippuuden japanese. But oh man...that voice is sexy...
There is actually a female member in Akatsuki - and yeah...I didn't go back to change that.
Wind element and Lightning element are actually separate - oops...I was too careless last chapter
I forgot to add a disclaimer anywhere - DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN NARUTO OR ELSE SASUKE WILL DIE WILLINGLY BY NARUTO'S HAND AFTER SAKURA IS ACCIDENTALLY KILLED BY INTERVENING WITH THEIR FINAL BATTLE
Cough...with that being said... I think I will do a sequel after all, to clarify some things. I'm pretty sure by the number of extra hits on chapter 31 that some people are having trouble figuring out why Itachi didn't die in the end.